How to Cook the Perfect Egg

Learn how to make eggs right every time — no matter how you like them.
Published February 19, 2016

Scrambled, fried, poached, hard-boiled, soft-boiled and even baked — there are so many ways to cook an egg. Yet cooking them right remains a mystery to many of us. But no more! We’ve got the basic tricks and tips so that hard-boiled eggs don’t have any more green rim around the yolk, so that scrambled eggs are as luscious as they can be, and so that even baked eggs come out of the oven perfect every time. We’ve got the scoop on how to get the heat level right, the water temperature perfect, and the stirring technique down, so that you end up with perfect eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

One note before you begin: Salting eggs before they’re cooked can toughen them considerably. Save the salt for the table, after you’ve got the perfect egg on the plate.

Scrambled eggs
Low, slow and patient — these are the tricks to scrambled eggs — that is, low heat, long cooking and constant stirring.

  • Use a whisk to beat raw eggs, no milk or water necessary.
  • Make sure eggs are well beaten in a bowl, even a little foamy, no bits of white visible.
  • Only use a nonstick skillet.
  • Add some sort of “slickening” agent to it: nonstick spray, olive oil, unsalted butter, walnut oil, almond oil, or peanut oil.
  • Set skillet over low heat to warm for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Pour in eggs — and begin stirring with a heat-safe silicone or rubber spatula. (A fork or a wooden spoon will not scrape egg off the hot surface as necessary.)
  • Keep stirring, scraping bottom and sides of skillet for any thin bits of custard as they form.
  • It may take up to 5 minutes before any curds form. But don’t wait for curds to form to scrape and stir.
  • Every time curds begin to form, scrape them up and fold them back into mix.
  • Two to three beaten eggs should take up to 15 minutes over heat.

Fast and fairly hot — this is the opposite of the technique for scrambled eggs — and the right combo for a perfect omelette.

  • Whisk eggs in a bowl until foamy, no bits of egg white visible.
  • Use a nonstick skillet and some sort of “slickening” agent.
  • Set skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  • Pour in eggs — not just in the center to make a lump but all around the skillet to make an even omelet.
  • Eggs will instantly begin to set.
  • You want as little browning as possible. A good omelet should take just a few minutes to set.
  • When bottom of egg mixture has set, use a heat-safe silicone or rubber spatula to pull in sides of omelet from edges of skillet.
  • Tilt skillet to allow raw egg to flow into gaps.
  • Continue cooking, crimping once more, creating more gaps for raw egg to meet heat, and shaking skillet repeatedly to make sure omelet has not stuck.
  • Once top is set with no more loose egg, add any desired toppings.
  • Make sure omelet is loosened from hot surface. Take skillet off heat and hold it over plate or serving platter. Let half of omelet slip out of skillet over its lip and onto plate or platter, then use skillet to fold omelet onto itself by lifting skillet’s handle up and over plate.

Fried eggs
The trick here: medium, steady heat and a fair amount of shaking.

  • Use a nonstick skillet and add some sort of “slickening” agent to it.
  • Set skillet over medium heat for 1 minute.
  • Crack eggs one by one into a bowl, then gently pour each one into skillet by holding bowl close to hot surface.
  • Never crack eggs directly into a skillet. You can get bits of shell in the eggs or break the yolks.
  • Only add as many eggs as the skillet can hold without any of them touching.
  • Once egg whites have turned opaque, shake skillet gently to loosen eggs from hot surface. You can also gently pry them loose with a heat-safe silicone or rubber spatula.
  • Continue cooking, shaking occasionally, until whites have fully set, about 2 minutes.
  • For sunny-side-up eggs, slip them out of skillet now by holding skillet over plate and letting them slide out over lip — or remove them with a nonstick-safe spatula.
  • For over-easy eggs, flip them and cook for 10 seconds. Don’t remove with a spatula — it can break the yolk. Instead, tilt skillet over plate and let them slide out one by one.
  • For hard-cooked yolks, flip eggs and cook for up to 1 minute. Again, tilt skillet over plate to slip eggs out — or use a heat-safe spatula.

Poached eggs
Skip the vinegar. You only need heat, water and patience.

  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat.
  • Turn heat to lowest possible setting so you see no more bubbles in pan. You may need to wait a moment with an electric stove.
  • Crack eggs one by one into a small bowl.
  • Hold bowl right at water level and gently pour egg into saucepan.
  • Cook no more than two eggs at a time — otherwise, the water temperature will drop too low. Pour each in a different section of pan.
  • Cover pan and steep for 4 minutes.
  • Lift out eggs one by one with a slotted spoon.
  • Blot bottom of spoon with egg still in it on paper towels.
  • Slip egg into a bowl to serve. Retrieve second egg, blot, and serve.
  • Bring water back to a boil if you want to make more poached eggs — and start the process again.

Hard-boiled eggs
No more green ring around the yolk!

  • Use cold, in-the-shell eggs right out of the fridge.
  • Put eggs in a large saucepan; fill pan with cool tap water so that eggs are covered with water by 1 inch.
  • Bring to a full simmer over high heat — not yet a rolling boil.
  • Start timing at full simmer (many large bubbles in pan). Cook for 1 minute. (The water will probably come to a rolling boil in that minute.)
  • Cover, remove pan from heat, and set aside for 4 minutes for a slightly gelatinous yolk, 5 minutes for a firmer set, or 6 minutes for a very hard set.
  • Drain and cool eggs slightly with running tap water.
  • Peel eggs while warm. (Cold hard-cooked eggs will not peel properly.)
  • Roll eggs one by one under your palm along a hard surface to crack shells a bit.
  • If desired, peel under running water to help get some of the shell off.

Soft-boiled eggs
Want your eggs to be a little runny in the middle?

  • Use the same technique for hard-boiled eggs — setting them in cold water, bringing to a full simmer over high heat, cooking for 1 minute, removing them from heat — except now, let eggs sit in hot water off heat for only 30 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on desired set.
  • Cool eggs only until you can handle them under running water, no more than a few seconds.
  • Set them small-end up in egg cups; slice off top of shell (and white inside) with a sharp knife.
  • Use a small spoon to scoop out egg inside shell — or scrape egg out of shell and into a serving bowl with a larger spoon.

Baked eggs
These are set in the oven in small, heat-safe ramekins.

  • Heat oven to 350°
  • Spray or grease as many small 1/2 cup, oven-safe ramekins as desired.
  • Use 1 egg per ramekin.
  • Or use a muffin tin, spraying or greasing as many indentations as desired.
  • Crack 1 large egg into each ramekin (or each muffin-tin indentation).
  • Drizzle 2 teaspoons lowfat milk over top of each raw egg.
  • Set ramekins in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet.
  • Bake about 8 minutes for just-set yolks, 12 minutes for a firmer set.
  • Cool 1 minute before digging in!